Eli Ridder | Report
A leaked confidential draft bill from Premier Doug Ford’s Ontario government released by the New Democratic Party on Thursday outlines a plan to create an overarching health agency to establish efficiencies, allowing more privatization.
The so-called “super agency”, that would be set up with the Health System Efficiency Act 2019 would centralize powers to “designate” providers of integrated care to serve at least two healthcare wings: hospital care, primary care, mental health and others.
The draft bill wipes Local Health Integration Networks and gives the power to “consider whether to adjust the funding to take into account a portion of the savings from efficiencies that the super agency generated in the previous fiscal year”.
The legislation was leaked by the New Democrats, days after the Toronto Star reported the PC’s plans for the agency. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said earlier Thursday that “it’s very clear in this bill that the privatization of healthcare is the agenda.”
Minister of Health Christine Elliott dismissed Horwath’s claims that her government plans to further privatize the healthcare system — saying that the New Democrats “got pretty much everything wrong. We are committed to our public healthcare system.”
Elliot did not go into further detail, but confirmed that the leaked legislation was legitimate.
‘Farm out’ healthcare: NDP
Andrea Horwath said the Health System Efficiency Act would “farm out” healthcare services to other organizations, including private providers — saying that it also proves the Progressive Conservatives will not be conducting public consultations in good faith.
The legislation was preceded by a public report from Dr. Rueben Devlin of Premier Ford’s Council on Improving Health Care and Ending Hallway Medicine, a handpicked panel of 11 senior administrators that is led by a close ally of Ford.
The report said that increasing the number of beds in Ontario’s health-care system won’t on its own solve the problem of hospital overcrowding and that too many patients head to emergency rooms for conditions that could be treated elsewhere.
The Devlin report and leaked bill show a PC government prepared to attack the provincial tradition of public healthcare, Horwath said, adding that “if Doug Ford plows ahead with this healthcare privatization bill, he has got one hell of a fight on his hands.”
The opposition New Democrats during the provincial election last year promised to expand and invest further in the universal healthcare system for Ontario, working to add dental care into the coverage.
Minister Elliott said that the New Democrats has been “crying wolf” about the privatization of healthcare for years, including under the previous government of Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal Party.
Liberals support local care
The Liberal Party’s interim leader, John Fraser, welcomed the Devlin report as it found “much to be proud of within our healthcare system” but “identified common barriers to access in our system” — including community care “close to home”.
“Navigation is a serious barrier to care in our system and it must be addressed to improve the lives of those who need care,” Fraser wrote in a statement released by the Liberals on Thursday.
“The solutions to the challenges our health care system faces are community-based. They depend on local leadership being given the capacity to drive the outcomes their communities need.”
Fraser said that the report shows Premier Ford’s government is attempting to take decision-making out of local communities and centralize them in Toronto — saying that Ford is “heading rapidly in the opposite direction of what is outlined in this report.”
Noting that the report calls for more investment in mental health, MPP for Ottawa-South Fraser says that the “government has drastically cut planned investments in mental health.”
“Healthcare isn’t one-size fits all and improving our health care system is not a job with an end date,” he went on, adding that is it ongoing, complex and costly work but that it “is not simply a balance sheet — it’s about people and families and their care.”
“The people of this province need to be the first consideration in health-care decision making,” he concluded.
‘Disturbing, if true’: Campus Liberals
The University of Guelph Young Liberals told The Avro Post that “the news is indeed disturbing, if true”, adding that “even more concerning is the obvious absence of any moderation on the policies coming out of the premier’s office over the past month.”
“Ford’s ministers continue to leak radical policies and expects us o applaud when they rein them in,” the Liberals added.
The Avro Post has reached out to the University of Guelph Conservatives and New Democrats for statements, as well as party members at Guelph-Humber.
Image of Christine Elliot from her website.